December 15, 2011

State Roundup, December 15, 2011

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EXELON AGREEMENT: In a settlement with Gov. Martin O’Malley over the proposed buyout of Constellation Energy Group, Exelon Corp. has promised to develop significantly more natural gas, wind and solar power in Maryland, give more money to help low-income customers and provide more protections for Baltimore Gas and Electric, Hanah Cho writes for the Sun.

The editorial board for the Sun praised the settlement as a strong one that addressed the most important issues.

PIPKIN CALLS FOR RESIGNATION: Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin called for Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley to resign over a recent audit that found SHA employees regularly cut corners to extend and execute contracts, Erin Cox writes for the Annapolis Capital.

ONLINE DISCLOSURE: The 2012 legislative session could bring a change in public access to documents that detail the occupational and financial interests of lawmakers, Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette writes. (This story was recycled from an identical posting Dec. 9.)

BALANCED APPROACH: Public employee unions, nonprofit groups and education advocates have been huddling in recent weeks to organize support for what they call “a balanced approach” to the continuing fiscal mess facing Maryland, Len Lazarick writes for MarylandReporter.com

REVIEW PLANMARYLAND: The editorial board of the Frederick News Post writes that, given the confusion, controversy and outrage over PlanMaryland, the state’s attempt to bring a holistic overview to Maryland’s land use, it agrees with the opposition — the legislature needs an opportunity to review it.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Enthusiasm for making the General Assembly the most transparent branch of government echoed at the first meeting of the Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government yesterday morning, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

STATE CENTER SUIT: Opponents of the $1.5 billion State Center project asked a Circuit Court judge yesterday to dismiss the state’s legal action against them, arguing that they have a First Amendment right to go to court to protest plans to redevelop the aging government office complex in midtown Baltimore, reports the Sun’s Lorraine Mirabella.

Judge Althea Handy did not rule on the motion and gave no indication on when she give a written decision, Gary Haber reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

NO MERGER, AGREEMENTS: The editorial board for the Diamondback calls the decision not to merger UM-Baltimore and UM-College Park but to instead to recommend a “strategic alliance” amounts to little more than making an agreement to make agreements.

POULTRY SUMMIT: At the region’s first Delmarva Poultry Summit at Salisbury University yesterday, state Comptroller Peter Franchot reminded a diverse audience that two years ago, growers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore produced $640 million worth of poultry, with Wicomico County’s share alone totaling $250 million, Deborah Gates of the Salisbury Daily Times reports.

WINE GIFTING: Courtney Pomeroy of the Frederick News Post reports that the state’s new wine shipping law has proved to be financially beneficial to Maryland wineries during the holiday gift-giving season.

ROLE IN GOP PRIMARY? A resurgent Newt Gingrich and a series of new primary election rules in place for the first time in 2012 are giving local Republicans hope that traditionally blue Maryland may play a role in choosing the GOP presidential nominee, John Fritze of the Sun writes.

O’MALLEY’S ROCK: Maryland Gov. O’Malley sent out an email last night to past campaign supporters to make sure they know about a pair of concerts that his semi-retired Celtic rock band is booked to play Dec. 29 at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, blogs the Post’s John Wagner.

WESTERN MD LOBBY: William Miles, one of Western Maryland’s two new lobbyists, told the Allegany County commissioners that his work in Annapolis “is not a war. We just want to be included at the family table.” Matthew Bieniek writes for the Cumberland Times-News.

FRACKING ETC.: Allegany County’s legislative wishlist includes delaying implementation of PlanMaryland, funding a North-South Corridor and a call for the Maryland General Assembly to support Marcellus shale drilling, Matthew Bieniek writes for the Cumberland Times-News.

TIP-JAR MONITORING: Washington County state legislators outlined issues that they likely will play a role in in the upcoming legislative session in Annapolis, including PlanMaryland, the cost to local governments of cleaning up the Bay and the very local issue of monitoring tip-jar money that goes to the fire and rescue association as closely as money distributed directly to dozens of nonprofit groups, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

Click on the video link about the story to hear state Sen. George Edwards discuss education funding.

NO JOB SECURITY: Alison Knezevich of the Sun writes that, earlier this year, Baltimore County promised job security through 2014 for members of three public employee unions, but county officials say they can’t make the same guarantee for other labor groups.

CECIL ETHICS LAWS: A Cecil County Commissioner continues to try to extend the county’s ethics laws to department heads, writes Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig.

301 OVERPASS: M.J. Neuberger of the Easton Star Democrat writes that Comptroller Peter Franchot said the state needs to find funds to move forward with an overpass at the intersection of U.S. Route 301 and state Route 304.